Recent studies that were done by Washington State University show that the average American woman is a size 16 and not a size 2. In fact, more women wear a size 16 than wear sizes 0, 2 and 4 combined. Sixty-seven percent of women in the U.S. wear a size 14 or higher and a women's regular size 16 is, in fact, the same as a plus size 20.
Wow! Why do these sizes seem larger and above average if they actually represent the majority of the population? It is because the beautiful women we see and admire everyday do not represent the whole. It is the minority that is represented online, in the movies we watch and in the fashion magazines we read. Today's popular media has created a very small range of women who are "beautiful."
We use our dress size as a point of reference to either build ourselves up or put ourselves down. No one is perfect and no single dress size is beautiful, but we feel good if we are in the majority.We feel bad if we are bigger than the majority.
The Forever 21 online size chart says that a size 12 is a size large, but these studies show that a size 12 is actually smaller than an average sized American woman. With this information, shouldn't a size 12 woman technically be a medium or even a small?
Size is arbitrary, yet we put so much stock in it.
I remember shopping in Shanghai, China several years ago. I felt pretty bad about myself after having to purchase a size 2XL coat when I wear a size small coat in America. I was a whole four times larger in China than I was in the United States. I didn't gain a bunch of weight in China and my body shape definitely didn't change, but the sizes changed. I knew that, but it still made me self-conscious. It still made me not want to buy that coat because we have been so conditioned by the popular media to care about dress size. We have been taught to think the world is full of 2's and 4's when in reality it is full of women sizes 14-18.
Did you feel relief and excitement when you read that the average American woman is a size 16? While this is normal and good, it is also proof that something is wrong. It is proof that we live in a culture that shames women for excessive curves and weight. It is proof that we need a change.
We add fuel to the body shaming fire every day without even realizing it. We joke about it with our friends. We laugh about it, so we don't cry. We hide behind the jokes so that no one knows how truly vulnerable we are.
I am extremely guilty of this aspect of body shaming. I love to joke about my body because it is easier than showing how I really feel. I have come to accept my imperfect body, but that doesn't mean those around me are as comfortable in their own skin. Our jokes and teasing could be very real and shaming to those around us without even realizing it.
We also unconsciously body shame when we are angry or want to hurt someone. When the right words are hard to find, we fall back on the most common and most hurtful phrases, including "You're fat and ugly." This is a problem.
We need to accept who we are and be comfortable in our skin. Dress size proves nothing. Dress size means nothing. Being comfortable in our own skin is all that matters. So, let's love ourselves, embrace our dress size (whatever that may be) and put a stop to conscious and unconscious body shaming.